Doctors warn of dangers of splitting your pills to save money

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 7:01 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS - Doctors say the economy is putting some patients in danger. That's because they are trying to make prescriptions last longer without telling their doctors. And in some cases, men are more at risk.

When it comes to diet, splitting your portions in half is a weight loss strategy. But when it comes to taking your prescription medicines, half portions could be dangerous. Doctors say one reason for pill splitting is trying to save money.

"I see so many patients who are unable to fill their medications or they get their medications and they don't refill them. And this is particularly dangerous for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure, people who have high cholesterol levels," said Touro Urologist Dr. Neil Baum.

Dr. Baum says there are three reasons patients split their medicines. One: to save money. Two: because they have trouble swallowing a large pill. Three: because they are getting uncomfortable side effects and hope to lessen them.

"If they don't take the medication as prescribed by the physician, they're putting themselves at a great risk. Many people don't share with their physician that they are splitting their pills and significant numbers of people are doing it," said Dr. Baum.

Doctors say you should always give them accurate information for your medical records. They can switch you to a liquid Rx if a pill is too big. They can switch you too another formula if you are getting bad side effects and they say don't be embarrassed if cost is the issue.

"I encourage all people who are going to pill split to inform their doctor so it goes on the record. The doctor is aware of it and doctors understand," he explained about patients who have limited funds.

Some people use scissors or a knife and guess where the center is to split pills. The most accurate way is using an inexpensive pill splitter that costs about $10. But still nothing is exact and that could change the effectiveness, especially if the pill is made to be time released, gradually in your body.

Sadly, people with high blood pressure who decide to take the pills every other day to save money, have had strokes. So have men who don't like the side effect of erectile dysfunction. Instead of asking their doctor to switch prescriptions to one without sexual side effects, they just quietly stop taking them. And that can be life threatening, causing a stroke or heart attack.

Seventy percent of men with side effects from blood pressure medicine stop taking it. But there are medications much less likely to cause problems. Some may even improve erectile dysfunction.

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